Insp. Chris Bear, left, addressed advocates who rallied outside of the RCMP detachment in “Duncan” on May 26. Adrian Sylvester, right, was one of the event’s organizers. Photo by Shalu Mehta Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

People gathered outside of an RCMP detachment in Cowichan territories on Friday to demand justice for 15-year-old Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed, whose sudden passing has rattled the community. 

On May 15, Carsyn was found in “Duncan” in a “semi-conscious state under suspicious circumstances,” according to a statement from police issued Thursday. Family members of Carsyn say she was found covered under pallets, cardboard and twigs. Tragically, Carsyn did not make it.

Carsyn’s family have been advocating for answers about their loved one’s death. A hashtag, #JusticeforCarsyn, has also been created to raise awareness about what happened and how police are handling the case.

The Cowichan Valley Citizen reported that police initially told the outlet “investigators believed there to be no criminality involved” in Carsyn’s death — a statement which led to community outcry given the state in which the teen was found. 

However at the rally on May 26, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Insp. Chris Bear said this was a “miscommunication” and that police have actually been investigating “since the onset.” He also apologized to Carsyn’s family.

“Our investigators have been in contact with the family,” he said. “If we have created any animosity or upset I sincerely apologize to them.”

In response to the miscommunication, and to bring more attention to the case, Cowichan Tribes community members organized the rally, including Adrian Sylvester — a relative of Carsyn and the founder of the Sasquatch Clan Patrol.

“I wanted to do this rally to [bring] more awareness to the RCMP so that they don’t give up on Indigenous ladies or any lady that’s found,” he said. “That’s not right. Everybody counts in this world. We’re all the same.”

Carsyn was from the Na̱mǥis Nation on her mother’s side and Cowichan Tribes on her father’s side. She had strong family connections to both communities in the “Cowichan Valley” and “Alert Bay.” 

“Carsyn was a nice young lady. Always happy. Very helpful. A very caring person,” Sylvester said. 

“Kids are just full of joy, full of love, but when we have stuff like this happen in town, they lose that because they’re scared.

“We have a lot of young people growing up here and if they see all this and say they can’t go to a police officer to get help, what are they going to do?”

‘Enough is enough’

Joe “Bingo” Thorne, an unofficial community liaison and knowledge keeper with the B.C School Trustee Association, also spoke at the rally.

“They have a major crimes unit that should have been there immediately,” said Thorne about the RCMP.

“I love this community. Right now, you can’t run at night. You can’t let the kids play in the yard. Enough is enough.”

“It’s a state of emergency,” added Monica Patsy Jones. 

“We’re the biggest band. There should be resources, security, foot security, and programs to prepare our youth.”  

Jones’s sister Catherine Theresa Joe was murdered in 1977. She said her dream is to have a Vancouver-Island-wide alert system that would notify surrounding communities when an Indigenous person goes missing. 

Cowichan Tribes issued a statement on Thursday sending condolences and prayers to Carsyn’s family.

“The safety and wellbeing of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people) and vulnerable populations in our region is a top priority for me and our entire council,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum.

A spokesperson for Island District RCMP said in an email statement that Carsyn’s death is not being investigated as a homicide.

“The circumstances leading up to the discovery of the girl are suspicious and therefore being thoroughly investigated, including the RCMP Forensic Identification Service with the scene assessment and process,” the response said, in part.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are examining multiple criminal aspects”. 

To continue momentum, Thorne, Jones, and Sylvester are coordinating a march for May 31. The march is set to begin at Quw’utsun Cultural Centre parking lot at 11 a.m. 

Anyone with information about this incident is being asked to contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522.\

By Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 29, 2023 at 11:35

This item reprinted with permission from   The Discourse   Cowichan Valley / Nanaimo, British Columbia
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